Chicago to Expand Police Body Camera Program

Less than a week after the release of dash-cam video showing the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald at the hands of a Chicago police officer, city officials announced today that they will be equipping officers with 1,400 new body cameras.

The City of Chicago is expanding its body camera program in the Chicago Police Department, officials announced today.

According to a release from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, officers will be equipped with 1,400 more body-worn cameras throughout various police districts by mid-2016. These devices are small video cameras typically attached to an officer's clothing, and are used to record audio and video of police activity.

Since January, officers have been testing 30 of these cameras in the Shakespeare District on the Northwest Side, encompassing Logan Square, Bucktown, and Wicker Park. So far, over 745 hours of footage has been captured on 4,600 videos created with the body cameras currently in operation.

These videos include routine service calls, traffic stops, emergency vehicle response, investigatory stops, and evidence collection. Beginning in February, the city will purchase newer cameras that can record up to 72 hours of high-definition footage on a single charge.

This effort will be paid for with a $1.1 million grant from the United States Department of Justice, matched by $1.1 million in City funds. The Chicago Police Department has also applied for state grants to assist with program-related costs.

Advocates in Chicago and across the country have praised the use of body cameras in increasing transparency, with groups like the American Civil Liberties Union supporting the use of this technology as a "win-win, helping protect the public against police misconduct, and at the same time helping protect police against false accusations of abuse."

"In addition to protecting police officers and citizens, cameras have been shown to reduce citizen complaints against police and are great tools for evidence gathering and training as they allow us to learn from actual encounters with the public,” said Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in a statement.

This news comes less than a week after the release of the dash-cam video showing 17-year-old Laquan Mcdonald shot 16 times by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, who has been charged with first-degree murder.

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